Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pork rillettes (more or less)

That's French for pulled pork essentially. I finally got my hands on a pork shoulder recently and had to decide just what to do with it. Well, there's only one thing to do with a pork shoulder--slowly cook it with a little liquid until it falls apart--but there's the question of what spices to use. I decided to make the French version since the seasoning is minimalistic. If I go the brown sugar and chili powder route I'm pretty limited as to what I can do with the resulting two and a half pounds of meat. If I was serving several people that's not a problem, but this is half a dozen meals for me. I figure if I just make the pork taste like pork to start with, I can always simmer it in barbecue sauce later. It's not like cooking it longer is going to do any harm.

Here's my pork shoulder with the skin and fat layer removed. If I was going for a proper rillettes preparation, I would have left the fat on and maybe added more. The distinction from American-style pulled pork that I glossed over way back in the first sentence is that, for rillettes the meat is very finely shredded and mixed with judicious amounts of the gelatinized cooking liquid and congealed pork fat for a flavorful, unctuous basic charcuterie. But I'm not doing that so off it goes. I'm saving it to make chicharones later.

A rub with salt and three minutes browning in olive oil is all the prep the shoulder needed. Once that was done, I added to the pot a couple carrots, half a large onion (both in large chunks), three crushed garlic cloves, two bay leaves, a few stems of thyme, a small handful of peppercorns and a cup of dry white wine. I put the cover on and then it all went into a 300 degree over for four hours. After three hours I added a chunked potato too. I would have liked to do this in a slow cooker which would have kept the kitchen rather cooler, but I can't find one in a reasonable size. The ones I've seen are either made for two cups of spinach dip or enough chicken cacciatore for the entire church social. I'm going to have to mail order a two quart model if I can find one with decent features.

I turned the shoulder over every hour, but I don't think that's actually necessary. I did it more to check on progress since I hadn't done this before. I only saw real progress towards the correct texture after three hours, but it clearly was going to take that fourth hour for the connective tissue to fully fall apart.

And with the connective tissue gone, and the meat cooled, it was easy to pull apart using tongs or bare hands. For the first dinner I had a pile of the pork along with the vegetables from the pot with a bit of Dijon mustard and some cornichons as the traditional French accompaniments. Pretty darn tasty; I particularly like how the pork tastes like pork with just a little support from the wine and herbs around the edges to let it strut its porky stuff. So to speak.

The next night I tried it in a barbecue sauce with cornbread and, since I haven't got any sweet pickles, more cornichons. That's not half bad either.

I've still got well over a pound of this left, despite insesent snacking. Is there anything else to do with it or should I just douse it with sauce and serve it on a roll with some cole slaw?


Karen said...

I would warm it up with some cumin (and more garlic won't hurt, imo) and red chili or chipotle or smoked paprika or all 3, sizzle a couple of flour tortillas in some hot oil, slice up some avocado and open a jar of really good salsa, such as Herdez. Not necessarily in that order, but you get the idea. Carnitas - the best thing for pulled pork!

kat said...

I've used pork like this in lasagna, though it might be a little hot for that for you in Miami.

billjac said...

It's not really proper carnitas (which ought to be caramelized and crisp), but it's not proper barbecue either. Maybe I can doctor them up into an approximation.

Using shredded pork in lasagna seems weird to me, but that's never stopped me before. Is that traditional somewhere in Italy or is it an American bastardization?

LaDivaCucina said...

My great grandmother from Italy put pork chops in her tomato sauce along with meatballs and chicken! DEE-LISH!!

billjac said...

I'll take that as a "no, that is not a traditional lasagna, but it's defensible." I'm all for pork with Italian tomato sauce myself. When I make a batch I usually have a chunk of pork in there for the long slow simmer.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm having trouble imagining the textures of shredded pork and lasagna noodles working together. I've got no problem with shredded pork and curly egg noodles so I'm not quite sure what my issue is.